Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bush hogging in the fall

So this is something we have to deal with at the goat ranch. My landlord loves to bush hog and generally does most of it in the fall. We have worked very hard to stockpile grass this year and it all gets bush hogged down. It's very frustrating. Such a waste.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


These pastures were mob grazed during the drought this summer. They've had a few small rains on them but the pastures are covered with at least an inch of dead, tromped forage...and underneath that litter is moist ground and worm castings. Pretty good regrowth all things considered.


This paddock was just mob grazed. Will be interesting to see how it comes back. you can see that the weeds (especially ragweed) are pretty heavy but the mob consumes them just like they consume any other forage as you can clearly see in the pics.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mulch and more mulch...tromped forage

My ranch manager, Nathan, has done a fantastic job of mob grazing the 400 head of (formerly) open cows this summer. With virtually no rain fall, he was able to add at least 3 body condition scores on nearly every cow, and we still have the entire pasture across the road (180 acres) that we haven't even grazed yet this year. The mob did an exceptional job of tromping down the standing forage creating a 1"+ layer of mulch over the entire ranch. I pulled back some of the mulch to find tons of worm castings and, even though it hadn't rained in over a week, wet soil! The ponds are virtually dry, but the grass is simply exploding. I was blown away by how great the grass looked even though it has been record dry. Every drop of rain is being held in place by the the detriment of refilling the ponds! I always felt mob grazing would really pay the MOST dividends during a drought and I think I am being proved right.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drought Effects

We got a few good rains at the goat ranch including about 1.5" from the hurricane. We had two other half inch rains and the place has really started to green up (more on that in the next post). I wanted to post these pics of the effects of this years drought on the ranch. I've never seen the ponds this low and we'll need some gully washers to get the kind of runoff needed to fill these ponds up. With the ranch so vibrant and green, it's easy to forget just how devastating this drought has been. Although we've carried more cows at the ranch than we ever have, it's clear this drought has had some serious impact. Interestingly, there is so much litter on the ground due to our mob grazing, that I don't think much water runs off, making it much more difficult to get the ponds full. I would estimate we have at least an inch of litter on top of the ground over virtually the entire ranch. More to come on this.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A little rain

So we got 2" about a week ago and another .7" a few days ago...I have no idea whether it is enough to grow any grass, but one advantage to mob grazing is that, done right, you leave a lot of litter on the ground to better hold whatever moisture does finally come down. We are still holding out hope that we can grow enough grass between now and the first week of September to keep the cows and stockers a little longer. The market is pretty depressed right now and if we can get to fall rains, we could see a healthy rebound.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Focus on Profit Per Acre

This is a great article. I have always focused on $$$$ per acre as a way to measure management. It's nice to see someone who agrees with me. Obviously it's impossible to compare this figure to other producers who may have much, much different acreage production, but you can use it as a measure of your own the numbers year to year to see how you are doing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Value of Gain

Most of you that read this blog know about my focus on VALUE of gain. This is from Glen Selk's latest newsletter: "Notwithstanding current production difficulties, the market is providing strong signals to add weight to feeder cattle before feedlot placement. For example, 525 pounds steers have averaged about $140/cwt. the past two weeks in Oklahoma. Adding 225 pounds at 1.5-2.0 pounds per day would produce a 750 pound steer by November. Using a November Feeder Futures price of $144.90/cwt and zero basis results in a gross margin of roughly $350/head or a value of gain of $1.56/lb. The extent to which this is a good market opportunity will depend on the cost of production but even with relatively expensive feed costs, a cost of production well under this value of gain is likely. While many producers are unable to take advantage of this situation, there are undoubtedly some producers with the ability to implement a stocker or backgrounding program to take advantage of this very high value of gain." Value of gain at $1.56!!! Now if we can get a rain or two we can take advantage of a tremendous opportunity!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Drought Continues

It would be easy to feel sorry for ourselves given this ridiculous heat and associated drought. The grass isn't even brown anymore, it's white. But mob grazing has allowed us to stockpile grass and calculate exactly how many days of grazing we have remaining. We added 108 head of our stocker calves on July 17th(avg weight 652#)to the dry cow mob bringing our mob size to over 500 head. While everyone else is liquidating, we have at least a month of remaining forage while carrying about 25% more animals at the goat ranch than we had last year. It's certainly been a challenging summer, but mob grazing has allowed us to get ourselves well prepared. We will likely be selling all of our purchased dry cows and our stocker calves in early September...hopefully the markets will have rebounded by then. If we get some rain, and the markets haven't rebounded, we may try to hold the stockers a bit longer, but the cows will likely have to go. Our most immediate challenge is to figure out where to merchandise our purchased cows in early September. The Joplin market is beyond awful right now. The cows are fat and more than likely, many of them are pregnant. It would be a shame if we don't end up making a healthy profit on them, but given the circumstances, I would probably be happy if we break even.

High Priced Corn

I've mentioned this many times before, high priced corn is not necessarily a bad thing. Cattlemen like to complain about it because the major publications generally rail on high corn because they are mouthpieces for large scale beef. But high corn can be a tremendous opportunity for cattlemen. High priced corn increases the value of your grass, and if you are a grass farmer, increased grass value is a good thing. Stop complaining and figure out how to take advantage of the windfall.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Another Mob Grazing Benefit - Fescue Seed

I've mentioned this in a past blog post, but a not so obvious benefit to mob grazing is the ability to harvest seed from pastures yet to be grazed. Although we currently have more cows at the goat ranch than we have ever had there (over 600 head) we still had nearly half the ranch that had not been grazed by mid-June. We cut those pastures for seed and with the price of seed this year, did quite well. Cutting the seed also removes the seed heads from the pastures that can carry fungus and harm eyes. I suggest rotating where you cut seed so that you can maintain a seed bank, but cutting this seed has many advantages, not the least of which is a nice paycheck. It's been record hot this summer and very dry, yet we still have around 400 acres that we have yet to graze. A huge benefit to managed grazing is knowing how many grazing days you have left at any given time. We calculate that if we don't get another rain, we have around 65 days of grazing left, which should allow us to get to early September with the cows and calves we want to send to market. Until then, I will continue to hope that it starts raining and prices will rebound.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heat and more heat

It's been record hot for the past week or so but it's a fairly typical SW Missouri summer. The cows are hot and taking to the ponds. This is a real problem with mob grazing and one of the biggest challenges in the summer. As I've shared in the past, a mob of cattle can do real damage to ponds and water quality. We have had a few fish kills that were not pretty (see prior posts for pictures). We have decided to try to fence the cattle out of the ponds and pump water to a stock tank. I am not a fan of spending money on equipment like this, but I really think the payback will be fairly quick, especially if performance is suffering due to water quality (this is very debatable, I've seen studies that show this both ways). We will start using the pump and tank hopefully this week...I'm anxious to see how the cattle react. I think providing good, cold water to the cattle in the mob can only be a positive.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Update on the dry cow mob

The mob of dry cows is really starting to act like a mob. It took a few weeks to get them all together and get the paddock size down to a small enough size, but the last few weeks have been great. We are back to seeing stripped weeds, oak sprouts that are just sticks sticking out of the ground, musk thistle eaten, grass tromped flat and nearly every manure pile molested in some way....all great signs of a successful mob. We fertilized with a ton per acre of litter late last fall and I didn't think we got a very good response, but we have so much grass this year that we can't keep up with it. We have about 300 pairs on one side of the ranch and 400+ dry cows that we are mob grazing on the other and we still haven't even touched 2 of the 6 large pastures that make up the ranch. AND we just cut over 60,000 lbs of fescue seed off of the place. It's funny because we keep talking that we really need more cows and we are running over 100 head more than we've ever had on the ranch. The dry, open cows we purchased were rail thin coming in and are really putting on the weight. I think we'll make some money on them. We've lost a lot of grass from the drought. There are big areas of cheat where grass used to be. I'm pretty happy with the ranch overall though. I think the litter helped and I am loving the way the mob grazed pastures look. We hope to have all the cattle off of the ranch in mid-August and plan to stockpile grass all fall. I am leaning toward buying dry, open cows Dec-March and mob grazing during the winter, spring and early summer. We'll learn a lot more about the profitability of this plan after we sell our purchased cows in August.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I have made several observations the past few weeks while walking thru the Goat Ranch. We fertilized with one ton of chicken litter over about 1200 acres late last fall. We didn't get any rain on it at all so got no grass growth last year. A few of our pasures look better than they ever have. The North Rock Barn pasture and the Rock Barn pasture have more grass this year than they've ever had. The Cabin pasture and the South Center have decent grass but have been better. The Stocker pasture (was grazed late and hard and didn't get any litter) looks worse than it has in a few years. The stocker pasture has been mob grazed more than any pasture on the ranch and it's had grass so heavy you could barely walk thru it, but this year it's just not that great. My disappointment is that it appears that a person will need to mob graze continuously to get results each can't quit mob grazing for a year and still have great grass. I also haven't seen much earth worm activity or castings. I am wondering if the severe drought may have hurt their population a bit. Looking back, I forgot how dry it got at the ranch and I'm thrilled that we didn't have to feed cows last winter. I should probably be very happy with the way the pastures look, but I'm not. I'm anxious to get our mob grazing program started back up! I think these young, thin open cows could be an ideal candidate to put into a mob and graze. We are just getting going, but already we see the cows stripping the oak sprouts bare and devouring the blackberry sprouts. I went back to areas where I knew we had big thickets of blackberrys and there are only a handful of young tender sprouts that I know will get eaten when we graze those areas. I'm starting to get excited and will keep you posted as to our results. I promise I will have some pictures in the very near future to share.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Post of the New Season

I will keep this post relatively short. I will be posting much more often in the coming weeks/months as we start mob grazing a large group of thin open cows that we are in the process of purchasing. Spring arrived about a month early this year. After last years drought, the cheat has just exploded this spring. Our pastures are lush with cheat and hop's just been perfect conditions for those plants to flourish. We've done a small amount of spraying for musk thistle and will likely need to do more next appears to have survived the drought very well. I'm disappointed in the fescue. What remains is doing well but it appears that we may have lost some plant density in the drought. I will be anxious to see what our pastures look like when the cheat and hop clover go away. This years plan is to calve out our cows at the goat ranch (they should start calving in a week or so) using a 3 day rotation. There should be enough grass east of the creek to hold them thru calving when we will move them to Mickeys. The thin cows we are buying will be mob grazed west of the creek. We hope to put together 400-500 head. Our plan is to run bull with them, put some weight on them, and sell them in August. The longer term plan is to have the Goat Ranch empty come September, stockpile grass and run stockers Jan-July.